Constitution Bench to decide if MPs, MLAs can be disqualified upon framing of charges

Opening its third chapter against corruption in politics, the Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to lay down the law on whether the country should even wait until a corrupt legislator is convicted to have him disqualified from Parliament or Assembly.

A three-judge Bench, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, referred to a Constitution Bench the question whether a legislator facing criminal trial should be disqualified at the very stage of framing of charges against him by the trial court. Should his disqualification be kept in abeyance till he is convicted?

The fact that the Supreme Court referred the matter to Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur under Article 145 (3) to set up a Constitution Bench of five judges indicates its positive resolve to settle this “substantial question of law” by interpreting the Constitution.

The court has been tightening its grip on corruption in politics from 2013 when it first held that legislators, on conviction, would be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months’ time for appeal, as was the case before. Before this verdict, convicted lawmakers would file an appeal in the higher court and continue in the House.

In March 2014, the Supreme Court >passed an interim order that criminal trials, especially those dealing with corruption and heinous offences, involving elected representatives should be completed in a year. This order prevented lawmakers from sitting in the House as their cases dragged on.

Meenakshi Arora, who appeared for the Election Commission in the case, told The Hindu that Tuesday’s reference to the Constitution Bench was the third chapter of a “clean-up act” started in 2013.

The hearing was on petitions filed by the Public Interest Foundation and former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act deals with disqualification on conviction for certain offences: A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for varying terms under Sections 8 (1) (2) and (3) shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.

In 2013, the Bench >found it unconstitutional that convicted persons could be disqualified from contesting elections but could continue to be Members of Parliament and State Legislatures once elected.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 5:14:21 PM |

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